Baptists and the American Civil War: August 10, 1864

Lewis Raymond, Baptist minister, Chaplain of 51st Illinois

Lewis Raymond, Baptist minister, Chaplain of 51st Illinois

Today Confederate Calvary Commander General Joe Wheeler, in an attempt to hamper the Union offensive against Atlanta, begins raiding activities behind Federal lines in North Georgia, targeting Federal railroad supply lines. Wheeler operates in North Georgia and Tennessee for a month.

Although the Confederate general does manage to temporarily destroy some stretches of rail, his efforts assist, rather than damage, Union fortunes. Union General William T. Sherman is grateful to have the Confederate cavalry away from Atlanta. Federals pursue and eventually force Wheeler to abandon his efforts, but even more importantly, the absence of Rebel cavalry on the Atlanta battle front helps cement Sherman’s September capture of Atlanta.

Fighting under Sherman is the 51st Illinois Regiment, one of a number of Illinois regiments on the battle front. Baptist minister Lewis Raymond of Chicago is the chaplain of the 51st, a position he has held throughout the war.

Wilbur Hinman of the Sixty-Fifty Ohio Infantry relates a humorous story about Chaplain Raymond during the Georgia sojourn of the Illinois regiments:

One day, after we had got well into the interior of Georgia, when the column halted for a short noon rest, our regiment was near a farmhouse that showed some evidence of former prosperity. A little way in rear of the house, which stood near the road, was an old fashioned sweep, with a bucket suspended over a well. Collecting half a dozen canteens, I went to it, filled them, and returned by way of the interior of the house, which was a double log structure, with a porch in the center. Looking in one of the apartments I saw a very aged couple sitting side by side in a double chair, near the door. The old lady was weeping, but the old man maintained a composed and benignant look. The troops who had preceded us had stripped the premises of everything that was movable, even to the furniture of their residence. I said to them:

“The boys are rather hard on you.”

He replied: “Well, I expected it.” Then, with a ray of hope, he added, “I wish you would ask them not to take the corn in that barrel on the stoop, for it’s every morsel of food they have left us.”

A number of the boys had already taken some to parch. I volunteered to stand guard till the march was resumed. To each one who came up I explained the situation, and he cheerfully retired in good order. When the bugle sounded, I resumed my place, but had not gone a mile before Chaplain Raymond, of the Fifty-first Illinois, rode past me with a sack of corn on his horse. I had known him before the war, and often met him in the army, and admired him for his zeal and christian enterprise. I asked him where he met with such luck. With apparent glee he replied:

“Why, back at that house I saw you leaving as I rode up. My eyes were sharper than yours. I found it in a barrel on the stoop.”

Assuming an expression of utter astonishment, I said, “If it comes to this, that a chaplain of our army has got to rob a poor old couple of their last bit of food, I think our cause will never prosper.”

He quickly demanded an explanation and I gave him the facts. He said the boys told him that no one lived there. Turning his horse, he rode back and emptied the corn into the barrel from which he got it.

Sources: Robert W. Black, Cavalry Raids of the Civil War, Mechanicsburg, Penn: Stackpole Books, 2004, pp. 65-59 (link); “Lewis Raymond, Regimental Chaplain” (Note: The source of this quote came from the website, a site that until July 2014 was devoted to the 51st Illinois regiment. Unfortunately, the owner of the allowed the domain to expire, and someone else bought it and created an entirely different website. The link was